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Organising your evidence

In order to prepare an effective case,no matter what appeals process is chosen, you need to understand the way the inspector will approach the evidence presented.

He or she will view the case in terms of long-established planning policies, at both local and national level.

The more familiar you are with these guidelines, the better able you will be to put forward a persuasive argument.

The development plan

The local authority's development plan, which outlines planning policy in the area and may in practice comprise a number of documents, is the most important consideration.

Any appeal must be decided in accordance with the development plan unless other factors indicate otherwise.

Your priority is to study the plan and establish how it can be used to help your case.

Contact your local authority for a copy or look at its website or ask your local library.

How to use the development plan

Start by identifying those policies in the development plan that are relevant to the appeal, and then establish whether they support or undermine your case.

If the policies help your case, you will need to prepare evidence to show how important and appropriate they are.

If they detract from your case, you will need to show that they do not directly apply to the appeal, are out of date or should not be applied because of some other overriding consideration.

The site file

Another useful source of information is the local authority's planning file for the site under consideration.

This 'site file' contains background information and the planning application.

It will also contain the minutes of the planning committee meetings held to consider the application, the appeal letter and the views of objectors.

To help put the issues in context, contact the planning officer at your local authority for an informal chat. Your local councillors can also be helpful contacts.

And don't allow yourself to be lost in technical jargon.

If there is anything you do not understand, contact the local authority and ask for straightforward answers to your questions.

Do not be ashamed to admit that you do not know the answer and if you do not get a satisfactory answer, try again.

Material considerations

The issues that an inspector will take into account are known as 'material (i.e. relevant) considerations'. The following are usually considered material

  • Relevant development plan policies, such as the Local Plan
  • Government planning policies contained in the National Planning Policy Framework and, where applicable, Minerals Planning Policies (MPGs and MPSs)
  • Representations made by statutory consultees and others in response to consultation at application or appeal stage
  • The designated status of a site or its surroundings (such as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty)
  • The planning history of the site
  • The effect on a conservation area or listed building

How to frame your evidence

Government guidance states that decisions on development must be in line with the development plan unless other material considerations indicate otherwise.

It's a good idea to focus on one or two major issues where you can make a distinctive contribution.

Play to your strengths

Deal with the areas that you know best or where you can add a new dimension to an issue. And, if you are part of a group, relate your concerns to your group's core purposes.

Do not be afraid to put forward arguments which are harder to quantify than more technical matters.

Just because the destruction of a locally important environment or the character of the area cannot easily be measured does not mean that it is not important.

If you are inexperienced or have few resources, limit the aspects of the case you cover.

By doing this, if there is a public inquiry, you also leave yourself less exposed to cross-examination on areas you are not able to properly address.